Community - Practicing Speech
I don't really have a well developed idea in my head, but I find that learning a language through duolingo (or any other method, for the matter) leaves you infinately more prepared for reading and writing than it does for listening and speaking.
I was wondering if there was a way to make groups to train this skill, as some people don't have the resources to practice speech at the level they're at.
I agree that practicing speaking and listening is essential during the learning process but I don't think you can separate the two completely. in most languages certain letter combinations will create certain sounds and so you should be able to have a fairly accurate guess at how a word is pronounced by how it is written. Duo, from my experience, is more tailored to improving writing and reading skills with the addition of the listening as well. I have no experience of the speech recognition as it is not available in my chosen language (Italian). The listening cannot be trusted entirely as it sounds completely different when in real speech and some of the pronunciations are wrong, which has been noted on a number of discussions.
I have found the most effective method, for me, to improve speaking and listening skills is to use a good audio book. When i begun learning Italian last September I started listening to audio books on my drive to work. This was extremely helpful as it allowed me to learn the basic phrases and knowledge required to string simple sentences. There was also the added bonus that it allowed to think and articulate simple to complex sentences and ideas while being occupied with another task; i.e driving. This is helpful as I think it extremely unlikely that you will be in a real life situation where there won't be distractions or have other tasks that require attention while speaking/listening. For this I used Pimsleur which have been the most useful for me based on a few I have tried; although there may be better.
I have tried Rosetta stone, as I really wanted to ensure that my speaking was focused upon, but I found simply listening and repeating with an audio book was a great deal more helpful. Rosetta stone software, I am sure, is incredible and can be extremely accurate but I prefer to train my ear and voice to make the correct sounds through practice rather than relying on the microphone quality; as I had a number of words my computer wouldn't accept no matter how many ways I repeated them.
Listening to a radio station from the desired country (preferably a chat show) is also great for training your ear and hearing the words you learn, especially those you have only seen written, in their real world context. It is also good when there are adverts on the station as these are always spoken quicker which tests how much rapid speech you can comprehend.
From just these audio book, after 4 months of study, I went to Rome and managed to understand a great deal of spoken Italian around me and have conversations to order food, discuss issues at the hotel and even mistaken for an Italian a number of times and asked for directions; which definitely made me think of my toes. From my improved reading and writing skills, however, I feel a lot more confident in speaking Italian because I understand the sentence structure, grammar and have a greater vocabulary.
Another thing I have tried is changing my iPhone language setting to Italian which allows you to learn basic phrases and words which you may not come across in the average lesson which would be helpful in daily life. Also because I am using a device that I am very familiar with I am picking up phrases subconsciously as the symbols and graphics, and knowledge of the device, allow you to make informed decisions on their meanings. Using Siri to practice speech recognition is also very fun.
These are all just my finding from my short stint at trying to learn language, but I hope it has helped. I think it is all down to your personal preference and best way you learn at the end of the day. Feel free to message me if you have an questions. =)
Great advice. Could you tell us which audio books you found most helpful?
Also, you can have conversations anytime you want for as long as you want with Google Translate. It comes up with some wierd stuff once in a while, but over all it's excellent. You can invent whatever conversation drill you want with it.
Try the Radio 24 App. The station is all talk and from Milan.
I find that Duolingo can still be great for learning how to speak if you simply repeat out loud the sentence at hand after each question, but while looking away from the screen and pretending you are conversing. Do it until you can say the sentence perfectly without looking three times in a row. You'll find this will greatly increase your speaking skills.
That said, it's important to have another source, at least for Italian, to learn correct pronunciation, as Duolingo Italian is very weak in pronunciation. I use Google Translate for a crystal clear version when I'm unsure about something, and I'm learning my Italian pronunciation from Rocket Italian, not Duolingo.
You bring up a very necessary point, but unfortunately I do not think that Duolingo will ever be able to substitute speaking and listening in a community. It would be nice, perhaps, if the website could also act as a language exchange and provide means for members to connect for conversations through Skype or Google hangouts or something.
However, one area I think that could be improved to close this gap is the pronunciation component. Check out my discussion on it, and vote it up if you like the ideas: http://www.duolingo.com/#/comment/462063